WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- More than 100 sexually exploited children were rescued and 150 people were arrested in a three-day sweep across the United States, the FBI said Monday.
Operation Cross Country took place in 79 cities and was carried out by the FBI in partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as part of the bureau's Innocence Lost National Initiative, the agency said in a release.
The seventh and largest such operation to date rescued 105 sexually exploited children and led to the arrests of 150 pimps and other individuals.
"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. "This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable."
Since its inception in 2003, the Innocence Lost National Initiative resulted in the identification and recovery of 2,700 children who were sexually exploited, as well as jail terms for convicted pimps that included eight federal life sentences and terms of imprisonment frequently ranging from 15- to 50 years, the FBI said in a release.
Operation Cross Country was created by the FBI in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to address the growing problem of domestic child sex trafficking in the United States.
The program brings to the NCMEC for group training state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and social service providers from across the country.
"Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America's children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet," John Ryan, NCMEC chief executive officer, said. "We are honored and proud to partner with the FBI, which has taken the lead in tackling this escalating problem."
Forty-seven FBI divisions took part in the seventh Operation Cross Country, along with more than 3,900 local, state and federal law enforcement officers and agents representing 230 agencies.